On the proposal of the European Commission, the European Parliament has today approved newrestrictions on certain services and revised rules on goods that could be used to apply the death penalty.
"Today's vote in the European Parliament underscores the importance the European Union attaches to respect for fundamental rights. As the European Union, we promote the global abolition of the death penalty with all the means, tools and instruments that are available to us", said the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini. "The eradication of torture as well as the abolition of the death penalty requires political will and a joint effort of parliaments and civil society across the world. Today we are demonstrating that our European Union has always been and will remain at the frontline of this work", she added.
"We can never accept loopholes that allow instruments of death and torture to be traded or promoted", said EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, adding: "From lethal drug injection systems to electric chairs or spiked batons, such terrible devices have no place in our societies. In addition to prohibiting sales and exports, we are now banning the promotion of these goods at fairs and exhibitions, and introducing a fast-track mechanism to make sure that new products of this kind can be banned quickly. It's imperative that we can keep up with new developments."
The European Union adopted a Regulation to ban trade in certain goods which can only be used for capital punishment or torture and to impose export controls on goods that could be used to these ends already in 2005. In January 2014, the European Commission made a proposal to amend this legislation to further strengthen these rules. Following discussions both with and within the Council and the European Parliament, an agreement was reached within a trilogue. Following today's vote in the Parliament, the changes should now be approved by the Council and then the text amending the original Regulation (1236/2005) will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and become Union law.
Respect for human rights is one of the core values of the European Union. It is also an essential element of the Union's relations with third countries, including in trade. The Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits capital punishment, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Regulation 1236/2005 bans the export and import of goods which can only be used to apply the death penalty or to inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. The Regulation also imposes an export authorisation requirement on goods that could be used for the purpose of torture or other ill-treatment.
The strengthened text includes a specific set of rules for the export controls applied to prevent goods from being used for capital punishment in a third country. A Union general export authorisation, an exemption that can be invoked by any exporter, is foreseen for exports to countries that, like the EU Member States, have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Of course, this exemption is subject to a number of conditions which ensure that re-exports to other countries require prior approval. If the general exemption does not apply, exporters need to apply for prior authorisation, which may take the form of a global authorisation or an individual authorisation.
For the time being, these export controls apply to certain anaesthetics. A specific procedure empowers the European Commission to list additional goods that have been approved, or actually used, for capital punishment by one or more third countries. As usual scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU is foreseen, but in urgent cases the amendment can enter into force when the scrutiny phase begins.
As regards the supply of certain services, the Regulation bans, in relation to goods whose export and import is prohibited, the supply of brokering services, technical assistance and training on their use. The presentation of such goods in international trade fairs in the EU, and the international supply and purchase of advertising space or time are also prohibited.
If the export of goods requires an authorisation but is not prohibited, the supply of brokering services and technical assistance in relation to the relevant goods also requires an authorisation. In some cases, the general authorisation may apply to technical assistance. The definition of brokering services is the same as that used in Council Regulation (EC) °428/2009 setting up a Community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use goods, but the new Regulation goes further and stipulates that an authorisation for brokering services is required whenever such services are supplied to a third country.
The Regulation also prohibits transit, which is defined as transport within the Union of non-Union goods which pass on their way to a destination in a third country. If the export of the relevant goods requires an authorisation but is not prohibited, the ban on transit applies if the transporter knows that the goods are intended to be used for capital punishment, torture or other ill-treatment.
Blog post by Cecilia Malmström: Laws on exports of products used for capital punishment and torture